Pakistani Militant’s Release Angers India

By Altaf Ahmad
150410-IN-lakhvi-620 Protestors in New Delhi burn a poster with the image of Pakistani militant Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, March 14, 2015.

Indian government and opposition leaders reacted angrily Friday to a Pakistani court’s release of a militant who allegedly masterminded the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, commander of Pakistani extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who was on trial for charges stemming from those attacks, walked away from jail Thursday night after a court ordered that he be set free, Indian media reported.

Lakhvi’s release was a setback to India’s efforts to mend bilateral ties with Pakistan, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh suggested Friday.

“India wants talks with Pakistan but the present development is unfortunate and disappointing,” AP quoted Singh as telling reporters in Lucknow.
Insufficient evidence

On Thursday, the Lahore High Court ordered that the Pakistani government free Lakhkvi immediately under that country’s Maintenance of Public Order law, because it had failed to produce “sensitive records against him in court,” according to IBN Live.

"The law officer had submitted important information about Lakhvi, but the court did not accept this and declared the evidence unsatisfactory," it quoted a Lahore High Court official as saying.

According to Agence France-Presse, the court conditioned Lakhvi’s release from Adiyala Prison in Rawalpindi on his posting U.S. $20,000 in bail.

The LeT leader was arrested in Pakistan in 2009. He and six other suspects were charged in connection with the Mumbai attacks, but their cases dragged on for more than five years with “virtually no progress,” AFP reported.

His release capped off a months-long legal wrangle that followed a Pakistani judge’s decision in December to grant him bail. According to AFP, the Pakistani government repeatedly ordered him locked up afterwards, but courts kept cancelling those detention orders.

The view from India

In New Delhi, Shakeel Ahmad, general secretary of the opposition Indian National Congress party, said it would complain to the Indian government about Lakhvi’s release during the next session of parliament.

“We are utterly disappointed with the release of the prime accused behind the deadly attack in Mumbai,” he told BenarNews.

“It was not an attack on Mumbai but an attack on India. We wanted him to remain behind the bars for life, but, unfortunately, Pakistan government released him even without taking the Mumbai trail to its conclusion,” he added.

But while he agreed that Lakhvi’s release could hamper delicate diplomacy aimed at improving Indo-Pakistani relations, a former Indian intelligence chief said India should not let this impede those overtures.

“Pakistan should have taken into consideration the sensitivities involved with the Mumbai attacks in India before releasing him,” A.S. Daulat, former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), told BenarNews.

“However, India should not snap ties with neighboring Pakistan over his release, and continue talks to resolve the outstanding bilateral issues.”


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